For the fourth time in five years United are travelling to the United States on their pre-season tour before returning to Europe, this year for a game against Bayern Munich in Germany.
Jose Mourinho is starting his third season as United manager, an achievement no other post-Sir Alex manager can match. However, and despite United’s highest League finish since Sir Alex retirement it feels as if the pressure is on this year; pressure to mount a serious challenge for the title.
It’s disappointing then, if unavoidable that the pre-season starts with many of United’s first team squad still on holiday recovering from their exertions at this summer’s World Cup tournament. This begs the question of just how useful this tour will be in football terms, (no doubt it will be a commercial success), and indeed just how much we can learn from the games. At best we can assess the progress of some of the youngsters filling in for absentees and the progress of returning loan players and perhaps gain some clues on United’s tactical plans for the season ahead.
United have strengthened this summer with the addition of young fullback Diogo Dalot although he has just had an operation and so won’t be available in pre-season. Fred has also been added and although he won’t start the tour he is expected to join up with the squad in the States at some point. New keeper Lee Grant is available and he may get his United debut. Alexis Sanchez is experiencing visa difficulties which may at last at the time of writing be reaching resolution. It is hoped this situation can be resolved sooner rather than later as given he didn’t feature at the World Cup we can expect him to be an important player for the side in the early weeks of the season.
As a result of all these issues a full squad list for the tour to the States has not been published but it appears that the following have travelled:
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero, Joel Pereira, Lee Grant.
Defenders: Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, RoShaun Williams, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe, Demetri Mitchell, Luke Shaw.
Midfielders: James Garner, Ander Herrera, Andreas Pereira, Scott McTominay, Ethan Hamilton.
Forwards: Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Joshua Bohui.
The first few days of their time in the States has been spent in training at the UCLA training facility before tour matches begin with a game against Club America in the early hours of Friday 20th July. www.manutdtactics.com will be keeping a close eye on the forthcoming fixtures over the next few weeks.
United’s full list of pre-season fixtures is as follows:
Club America vs United, University of Pheonix Stadium, Pheonix
Friday 20th July 2018, 03:00 BST, :17:00 (Thursday 19th) local time
San Jose Earthquakes vs United, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara
Sunday 22nd July 2018, 22:00 BST, 14:00 local time
United vs Milan, Stub Hub Centre, Carson
Thursday 26th July 2018, 04:05 BST, 20:05 (Wednesday 25th) local time
United vs Liverpool, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Saturday 28th July 2018, 22:05 BST, 17:05 local time
United vs Real Madrid, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami
Wednesday 1st August 2018, 01:05 BST, 20:05 (Tuesday 31st) local time
Bayern Munich vs United, Allianz Arena, Munich
Sunday 5th August 2018, 19:15 BST, 20:15 local time
United have announced their third signing of the summer with the arrival of 35-year-old goalkeeper Lee Grant from Stoke City. Something of a surprise; the conventional thinking is that the player has been signed as a third choice back up with a view to allowing Joel Pereira, a promising 19-year-old to get some experience via a loan period at another club.
Not to be disrespectful but the term “journey-man” could have been invented for Grant. He started his career as a youth player at Watford before enjoying a career in the lower leagues at Derby County with loan spells at Burnley and Oldham Athletic, then he moved to Sheffield Wednesday in 2007. He stayed at Hillsborough for three seasons and made 145 appearances for the club in a spell when they were playing at Championship level. He then moved to Burnley, another Championship club for three years before re-signing for Derby in 2013. Again he stayed at this club for three season and again the whole of that time he was playing his football at Championship level. In this second spell at Derby he worked with one of our old friends ex-United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele who was full of praise for the player. Who knows whether Steele has influenced United’s decision to move for the player?
Lee Grant in action for Stoke City
In August 2016 Grant got the chance to play at a higher level joining Stoke City in the Premier League, initially on a six month loan deal as cover for the injured Jack Butland. Grant did so well, including one excellent performance as Stoke grabbed a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford that Stoke made this move permanent in January 2017. The player has given other accomplished displays against United since then and has been a key part of Stoke’s excellent record against us over the last couple of years.
He has obviously made an impression and there is something satisfying about seeing a player work hard through his career and earn just reward with a permanent move to a club operating at the top level. He might not play that often for our first team but there is talk of a move onto the coaching staff at Old Trafford in a couple of years.